hollywood regency interior design: glamorous… and dusty


creamy vintage paris boudoir vanity chair

creamy vintage paris boudoir vanity chair

the glamor of the hollywood regency interior design style is a mimicry of the early movie heyday star’s lifestyles and tastes.  these people entertained lavishly, their homes were adorned with exotic furnishings and dramatic flair. they were adored almost as royalty.  hollywood regency furniture is a broad category difficult to define.  the look is not minimalist, but some pieces within the design can be.  it can include mid-century modern or older styles, asian pieces, blacks, whites, wood grains, just about any kind of color combination that suits your taste.  but heavily carved and heavily upholstered pieces are often included.  

designers william haines and dorothy draper lived this life and developed this look for others.  they were gutsy, wealthy, successful and admired.  these websites are worthwhile.  

haines interior

william haines interior


william haines
william haines, 1900-1973
The lobby of the Hampshire House, completed in 1937, Dorothy Draper

lobby of the hampshire house, completed in 1937, dorothy draper


dorothy draper 1889-1969

dorothy draper 1889-1969

we do not have to spend thousands to incorporate this style (just look like we did), thanks to online used furniture dealers. there is a large assortment of hollywood regency style furniture online, especially on ebay.  my favorite companies are ts and company and art collector-usa.  they offer an excellent blanket wrapped furniture moving service, tsc moving.

a regency is a substitute government or rulership.  they had them in europe when the royal heir was still a boy, for instance, or when there was no clear ruler for a time, or when the ruler was absent.  some would argue that hollywood movie stars are the royalty of america, substitutes because we don’t have anything else.  you don’t vote for or against the stars and argue endlessly about their ideas and actions.  the adored actors are just there.  wonderful, rich, envied.  this was especially true during and the decade after the second world war.  their world was a welcome escape.  it was a reminder that war and the hardships it created were not the only reality.  we welcome the same kind of refuge in these times.  when we mimic their style, we attempt to capture something of their lifestyle for ourselves, the ability to impress and offer the comfort and luxury to our friends as we entertain. 

but be warned: this style is dusty.  writing this piece i cannot help thinking about numerous vintage furniture items i have dealt with in the hollywood regency style.  you need a maid (or you are the maid).  these people had maids, believe me.  the tufted upholstery chairs are tricky to clean.  folds of fabric and those fabric covered buttons trap dirt and animal hair.  the buttons tend to go missing.  they are one of the most expensive re-upholstery jobs, the most time consuming if you attempt it yourself.  lots of carved woodwork, chandeliers, interesting ornaments sitting on coffee tables, all gathering dust.  do we honestly have time for this?  does the imagined serenity of the rich and famous really rule our desires?  maybe that ambition is also dusty.


globalization, interior design, and art nouveau

Tassel House, Brussels, 1893, Victor Horta, First floor landing with view toward staircase

tassel house, brussels, 1893, victor horta, first floor landing with view toward staircase

if i could be transported to another time and place, i would be fascinated to visit the few decades before the first world war.  ideally i would not be in one place. i would travel the world and the world would be traveling to me.  globalization on the rise.  

Orchid desk, Louis Majorelle and Daum Frères, mahogany, gilded bronze, and glass

orchid desk, louis majorelle and daum frères, mahogany, gilded bronze, and glass, france 1903

Vilmos Zsolnay Vase, 1899, Hungary

vilmos zsolnay, vase, 1899, hungary

a crazed group of 1910 british bankers sing a frenzied song at little micheal banks in mary poppins, trying to induce him to invest his tuppence  in railways through africa, dams across the nile, fleets of ocean greyhounds, majestic, self-amortizing canals, plantations of ripening tea. 

this economic globalization paralleled a radically changing europe’s outlook and lifestyle. interior design and furniture design would be forever changed. you can argue for or against globalization, but this seems to be a waste of time.  it just happens.  go with the flow.  

interior designers, especially in the art nouveau movement, began the modernist trend toward lighter more open rooms and furnishings. forms and techniques used in islamic and asian, especially japanese, art and architecture were incorporated. new materials and techniques were possible because of the industrial revolution.  ancient styles, materials and techniques were rediscovered.  

the result was a grand flourish of exotic possibilities, pushing design away from the heavy, stodgy forms of the past.  

for more info go to the art nouveau exhibit at the national gallery of art from which i borrowed these four images.

the ladies luncheon Room, ingram Street, glasgow, scotland, 1900, charles rennie mackintosh and margaret macdonald.

the ladies' luncheon room, ingram street, glasgow, scotland, 1900, charles rennie mackintosh and margaret macdonald.

adjustable lounge chair by william morris the socialist dreamer

still searching for a lounge chair for an outdoor seating area.  what angle should the backrest be?  it could be adjustable.  william morris (1834-1896) seems to have been the original creator of an adjustable chair.  at least his name has been attached to the much copied design.  

morris chair, desert craftsman, phoenix, arizona

morris chair, desert craftsman, phoenix, arizona


morris chair, copy, from 1866 drawing

morris chair, copy, from 1866 drawing

Morris chair by L. & J. G. Stickley

Morris chair by L. & J. G. Stickley


morris was an english designer who like many popular designers made a lasting impact with not just their art but their break away thinking about the times in which they lived.  morris was an architect, artist, textile designer, poet, and an outspoken proponent of socialism.  he reacted to the industrial revolution’s mechanized workplaces and poor living conditions for so many workers by dreaming of another happier world.  he did not lounge all the time, though.  he worked and thought about work.

“It is right and necessary that all men should have work to do which shall be worth doing, and be of itself pleasant to do; and which should he done under such conditions as would make it neither over-wearisome nor over-anxious.”  william morris*

think about that for a minute and the types and work that men should do becomes a very short list. i think he had the dreamy world of artists in mind.  

morris was also a skeptic when it came to leadership.

“History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed; Art has remembered the people, because they created.”  william morris* 

“No man is good enough to be another’s master” william morris*

but morris was a leader himself, followed because his ideas and art were admired.  in a sense, he was a king or master of the english arts and crafts movement, which hoped society could get back to good craftsmanship and smaller personalized production in which all the workers could feel a pride and ownership.  i don’t think he foresaw that his utopian socialist world would require the fiercest kind or kingship and mastery to enact.  socialists are not pragmatic observers of humanity.  there just always are leaders and followers, ceos and janitors, generals and foot soldiers.  when anything is destroyed the leaders always get blamed whether it is their fault or not….. anyway, back to the lounge chair search.

here is another variation, sitzmaschine, designed for an austrian sanatorium. 

Sitzmaschine Chair with Adjustable Back (model 670). c. 1905., josef hoffman, produced by kohn

Sitzmaschine Chair with Adjustable Back (model 670). c. 1905., josef hoffman, produced by kohn

i find the design rather scary.  the name does not help.  it brings to mind enforced sitting.  associated with a long sickly stay in a sanatorium, the chair is not attractive.  but on the other hand, if you have to sit for a long time for any reason, it is wonderful to be able to adjust the angle of the backrest.  

* quotes copied from thinkexist.com